… 50 percent reduction in parking fees likely
By Brushell Blackman
As the parking meter saga deepens, the Mayor and City Council (M&CC) has suspended
booting vehicles until further notice. At a press briefing at the Ministry of Presidency yesterday, Minister of State Joseph Harmon announced that the council will be suspending the punitive aspect of the project.
It was noted that persons will still need to buy parking tickets but non-compliance will not result in clamping of vehicles. However the authorities could not say what penalties will replace the clamping measure.
Harmon said that although the city council is a democratic organ that was duly elected by the citizenry of Georgetown, Government couldn’t just stand on the sideline and make no intervention. He noted that it was for this reason that the Mayor Patricia Chase-Green and Town Clerk Royston King were called to the Ministry of Presidency, to discuss the project with President Granger.
Harmon said that he recognized that the boundaries of the city have expanded over the years; and there has not been a concomitant expansion in the revenue base of the council
“The city council said that this (parking meter) was needed to bring in revenue to bridge the huge financial gap that currently exists.”
Notwithstanding, Harmon said that the government will not treat lightly the issues that affect the nation and it is to this end that he urged that a different approach be examined by the M&CC.
Further, Harmon noted that government could not disregard the displeasure of the populace with regards to the parking meter and noted that such disposition in the form of protest is healthy and is all a part of democracy which is encouraged under the stewardship of the current administration.
Harmon made clear that the government was not happy with the general noise surrounding the parking meter project and indicated that there should have been more consultation with a broader base of stakeholders.
It is for this reason that the council was advised to hold more consultations with civil society and other persons to come to a mutually agreed position on the parking fees and the general project.
Harmon noted that in its current form the fees are burdensome to the public and special measures should be looked at for different sections of the society. However, he was adamant that this should be done by the city council and the parties that they will be consulting with imminently and that government will have no input in those discourses.
On the back of the suspension announcement earlier by Harmon the M&CC and the religious community held a consultation session at the council chambers later yesterday. At that meeting the council met with representatives from the Muslim, Rastafari, Christian and Hindu communities.
Ras Simeon Sielassie speaking on behalf of the Rastafarian community noted that the power should be with the people. “We elect the council and we should have a greater say”.
Sielassie noted that although he is not opposed to the parking meter project he did not believe that the country was ready for this initiative. He advocated for a 12 months suspension in the project until an amicable solution can be found.
Pastor Wendell Jeffery said that the parking meter is a part of a perfect storm that has enveloped the Guyanese population. He explained that since the new government has taken office a number of new tax measures have been introduced and this is what is compounding the parking meter project.
“All they (government) are doing is take, take, take and people cannot afford it.”
He advocated for the use of toll stations at the entry points into the city and this will allow for people to pay to come into the city rather than the parking meter that has experienced the outrage by a large section of the society.
Mayor Chase-Green said that the council is looking at a 50 percent reduction in parking fees along with exemptions and parking permits for a number of areas and groups, including the religious community.
However she noted that a decision will be made once all the necessary groups have been consulted. She said that she understands that people will feel aggrieved when they have to pay a bit more; but the city needs to be maintained and this project will enable the council to execute much needed developmental works.
She encouraged all those parties that have been affected to come to the fore and help the council to arrive at a decision that will bring an end to the current disquiet that has seriously blighted the project. She extended an olive branch to the Movement Against Parking Meter (MAPM) and invited the members to come forward and speak with the council.
Pandit Deodatt Tillack, said that he supports the parking meter project and believes that part of the problem is that it has been heavily politicized and this has exacerbated the issues that have bedeviled the project.
However he did recognize that there was a need for the reduction in parking fees to make it more affordable for persons who do not have the capacity to pay the current rates.
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